Archives for posts with tag: spiritual disciplines

 

In the preface to his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster tells about his first appointment as pastor to a small church in a thriving section of Southern California. He saw this as his chance to show the denominational leadership and the whole world just what he could do. He imagined that this church would become “a shining light set on a hill. The people would literally flood in.”

He writes, “After three months or so I had given that tiny congregation everything I knew, and then some, and it had done them no good. I had nothing left to give. I was spiritually bankrupt and I knew it. My problem was more than having something to say from Sunday to Sunday. My problem was that what I did have to say had no power to help people.  I had no substance, no depth. The people were starving for a word from God and I had nothing to give them. Nothing.”

It is easy for us to be busy, even doing the work of the Lord, but forget to nurture our own spirits and care for our own souls. One of the pitfalls of modern living is the tendency to channel all our time and energy into our “work” and neglect our “walk.” Without attention to our spiritual well-being, the results are likely to be like Foster’s experience. We find ourselves empty and exhausted. Or we can easily succumb to the seduction of success rather surrender ourselves to lives of significance.

The prophet Isaiah has words of instruction for us: “God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired. They walk and don’t lag behind.”  (Isaiah 40:28-31, The Message))

Dear God, help us not to get so caught up in our work, whether it be for You or for our own self interests. Enable us to realize that our “doing” must not take precedence over our “being.” During these days of Lent help us to realize that our strength and purpose comes from  our relationship with You.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

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Aretha Franklin 1

I have enjoyed listening to Aretha Franklin sing for as long as I can remember. She is a P.K. (preacher’s kid) who grew up singing gospel music in the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit where her father was the pastor. But I never expected to receive spiritual counsel from the Queen of Soul. However, last week I did.

I was driving along in my quiet, comfortable, zero emission electric car listening to a CD of Aretha’s hit songs. Although it was a love song, the lyrics gave instructions for one’s prayer life.*

I know folks who have a highly structured and disciplined routine for praying. All my Christian life I have found that to be a struggle. I pray. I pray often. But I do not have a well defined ritual that I practice.

prayer 4

The Apostle Paul instructs the Thessalonians  to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). The Common English Bible translates Paul’s words to say “pray continually.” Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, The Message, translates Paul’s words as “pray all the time.” How do you pray all the time? Continuously? After all there is work to be done. Duties to be performed. Relationships to be maintained. How is it possible to carry on all that daily life requires and always be praying?

Aretha reminded me of what I already knew. Too often we equate prayer with a certain posture and ritual. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are times when kneeling or bowing your head when you pray is appropriate. Religious rituals can be wonderful resources for prayer. The words of others can be great tools to use in praying. Having a quiet and private place in which to meditate is invaluable. But the circumstances of daily life does not always allow for these aids to prayer.

Prayer 1

So how do we pray continually? Aretha says (sings) “Each morning I wake up. Before I put on my make up I say a little prayer for you.” She says that as she considers her wardrobe and performs the simple act of combing her hair, she says “a little prayer” for the object of her affection. On her way to work and even when she takes her coffee break, there is opportunity to pray.

prayer 3

There needs to be time intentionally set aside for prayer- to offer our petitions and praise to God. It is certainly appropriate for collective prayer when people of faith gather in worship together. Equally important is the awareness that prayer can be offered at anytime and in any place. It is not difficult to pray continually because prayer is simply conversation with God and God is with us wherever we are and whatever we may be doing.

Thank you God. And thank you Aretha.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

*I Say a Little Prayer for You lyrics

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little pray for you
While combing my hair now
And wondering what dress to wear now
I say a little prayer for you

 

Forever and ever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and ever, we never will part
Oh, how I love you
Together, forever, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever and ever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, forever, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

 

Writers: Hal David, Burt F. Bacharach, Burt Bacharach

Copyright: BMG Gold Songs

 

What are you giving up for Lent? Whether you are a religious person or not, the practice of fasting can help you to become a healthier and happier you.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that may be practiced at any time and generally means abstaining from food or drink. It is especially associated with special religious observances.  Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, and Taoism all advocate some form of fasting—from short periods to days, and even an entire month.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (June 17-July 17, 2015), is observed by Muslims as a month of fasting. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse. In some interpretations, Muslims also refrain from other behavior that could be perceived as sinful, such as swearing, engaging in disagreements, backbiting, and procrastination.

fasting 5

Christians observe Lent, forty days before Easter (February 18-April 4, 2015), and it is intended to assist in growing closer to God. The Upper Room says, “Some Christians use the whole forty days to fast from candy, TV, soft drinks, cigarettes, or meat as a way to purify their bodies and their lives.” It is suggested that one might give up one meal a day and use that time to pray instead.

Fasting

 

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh (taking care of course to keep within the limits of what seems permissible to the world), we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ.”

Researchers from the University of Florida did a three-year study that concluded that fasting caused the gene related to anti-aging in our cells to increase, which can lead to longevity. The study also indicated that fasting could strengthen the body’s natural preventive processes that protect against future diseases. (read a full report on the study at http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/09/fasting-diet-study-lent).

Fasting can, however, refer more broadly to “giving up” anything at any time. Ideas include giving up “some activity like worry or reality TV to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation.” The idea is to “fast” in order to focus on God.

FASTING 2 There are a lot of things that a person might “give up.” Things that clutter the calendar and complicate life. Resentment, anger, and bitterness are destructive emotions that are like cancer that eat away at a person from the inside. Why not give them up?

Pessimism and cynicism prevents one from seeing the bright and beautiful in every day life. Finding fault with others leads one to de-value the worth of persons and gets in the way of seeing the good that God has invested in every individual. Give them up.

Although you might have made mistakes, beating yourself up constantly does no good for you or anyone else. An adversarial posture as one’s usual attitude only works against you. Gossip and criticism may seem harmless but they can do serious damage. These attitudes and actions diminish yourself and others. Give them up.

fasting 3

We are in the middle of the season of Lent but whether you “fast” from negative behaviors such as those mentioned above- and there are many others- for religious purposes or not, you will become a healthier and happier person when you give them up. After all that is God’s intentions for you (John 10:10).

 

Jamie Jenkins